Sunday, March 25, 2018

Vignerons de l'Enclave des Papes Cotes du Rhone Villages Valreas Cuvee Prestige, 2015

When you think about wine bargains from Trader Joe's, you may think first of "two buck Chuck," the Charles Shaw wines from California. As far as I am concerned, these are commercial, manufactured wines that are not even worth the $3 or $4 charged. There are, however, some true wine bargains that should not be missed. And this is one of them.

Cotes du Rhone Villages is a definite step up from wines labeled simply Cotes du Rhone. And Valreas is a well regarded CDR Village, on a par with Seguret and Visan and not far below Cairanne, Rasteau and Vacqueyras. This Valreas is produced by a cooperative that has a good reputation for preserving the traditional qualities of the appellation and the vineyards. I have been buying this particular Valreas from Trader Joe's regularly, at least since the 2004 vintage, and I have never been disappointed with either the quality or the price ($6.99). This 2015 may be the best of the lot.

Medium deep ruby. Has the color, smells and flavors of a traditionally made Southern Rhone. No barriques or new oak. Ripe berry fruit with a good backbone of pepper and spice. The wine is 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah and the traits of both shine through even at this early stage. Good fruit purity and winemaking that lets the grapes speak for themselves. I love it. And, at the price, I can drink it often.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Eric Ross Klopp Vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir, 1999

Eric Ross is a small winery in the Russian River Valley with the motto: "Taste the vineyard. Taste the difference." The vineyard he chose for this wine is a very special one and so is the wine that it produced. The source is presumably the Klopp Ranch vineyard often used by another talented Pinot Noir winemaker, Merry Edwards.

I bought this wine for a good price at auction, and, considering the uncertain provenance and 19 years of bottle age, it may well have shown better a few years ago. Nevertheless, it is still a very fine wine, and I can "taste the difference" that Eric Ross seeks.

Medium light garnet with some bricking. Beautiful scents of earth, wild cherries and dried flowers. Dusty tannins on the palate. Dry but delectable. Haunting flavors that are still with me several hours after the last sip. This may be the best $11 I have ever spent.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Chateau Rieussec Sauternes, 1988

I had many excellent wines on my recent 33-day trip to New Zealand and Australia, but this 30-year-old Sauternes on my final night was the bell ringer. In appearance, smell and taste, it is much younger than its age suggests.

Beautiful gold color. Fresh, lively scents of almonds, coconut, citrus and vanilla. Rich and smooth on the palate like a creme brulee but with the same vigor and freshness. A perfect match for a delicious pear tart made with almond flour. I have had many great Sauternes, including two vintages of Yquem, but this Rieussec has to rank right alongside them. No sign of age at this stage.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mas de la Garrigue Grenache-Carignan Millas, 2015

I sometimes struggle identifying the garrigue trait (scents of Provencal herbs) in Southern Rhone wines. These scents are clearly there in a majority of wines, but in varying degrees. In this wine from Southern France the trait is unmistakable, presumably explaining the name on the label.

Deep and dark. Rosemary, thyme and other Provencal herbs, but, as in other wines of Southern France, the ripe red fruit qualities take over and keep the wine from smelling or tasting green.  Medium bodied with a sleek finish. You can buy a glass for $9.50 to accompany your meal at Oakwood Bistro in Kalamazoo.